Posted on July 08 2022
An autoimmune disease or disorder occurs when the immune system attacks the body tissue. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases or disorders. Globally, one in ten people is said to suffer from an auto- immune disease atleast once in their lifetime.
Here is a statistic report showing the rise in the auto- immune disease diagnostic market. These include lab tests routinely done to diagnose an autoimmune condition. As you can see, the number is on a constant rise and even forecasted to continue rising.
When diagnosed, patients often turn to the World Wide Web for support and the AIP nutrition protocol mostly pop's up.
The Autoimmune Protocol or AIP is a diet that focuses on reducing inflammation, pain, and symptoms caused by autoimmune diseases. Having worked with over a hundred clients globally now, My team and I understand that the AIP protocol lacks scientific evidence, is not sustainable and may be doing more bad to your body than good.
Through this article, I intend to provide a comprehensive overview of the autoimmune disease and an overview of the AIP diet. Along with this, we will also explore the role of a plant-based diet and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in not only disease prognosis, but also reversal.
What is an autoimmune disease?
An autoimmune disease is when our immune system attacks our body by mistake. Usually, the immune system guards us against foreign toxins. When it senses a foreign invaders, it sends out an army of fighter cells for attacking them.
Normally, the immunity system can differentiate between foreign cells and our body cells. However, in case of an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes parts of our body as foreign. As a result, it releases autoantibodies that attack the healthy cells.
Some autoimmune diseases target one organ only. For example, in Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas are the focus of attack. But, in other diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the entire body is under attack.
Before you even have a slightest though that an auto- immune disease is a life sentence, here is what Dr. Brooke Goldner, a board certified physician, who herself has compact Lupus has to say about her recovery:
"We realized that there are certain foods like meat, dairy, processed foods and some oils that can cause chronic inflammation that triggers disease, and other foods like raw greens, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids that give your body the nutrients it needs to heal disease – even Lupus. Thanks to these principles, not only have I been completely disease-free for 13 years this year, I was able to have two healthy sons, and have blood tests that rival the healthiest athlete. I don’t even have the “genetically” high cholesterol I had since my 20s. We know that every 10 years our body has completely regenerated all the cells in our body, meaning that literally, the body I currently have has never been sick."
Why does the immunity system attack the body?
Doctors don't exactly know what causes the immune system to misfire. However, a sort of 'molecular mimicry' is in place. That is, for some reason, the cells in a specific site of attack start resembling an invading toxin, confusing the body to attack itself. Some people are also more likely to get an autoimmune disease than others.
A 2014 study found that women are more likely to get an autoimmune disease than men. 6.4 per cent of women vs 2.7 per cent of men are likely to get affected by an auto immune disease. Additionally, the disease starts during a woman's childbearing years (i.e., between ages 15 to 44).
Some autoimmune diseases or disorders are more common in certain ethnic groups.
For example, lupus mostly affects African-American and Hispanic people more than Caucasians. Certain autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus, also run in families. However, not every family member will necessarily have the same disease. But, there might be a genetic component.
These statistics begs us to consider the role of nutritional and lifestyle factors as a causative factor for autoimmune diseases.
Researchers also suspect environmental factors like infections and chemical or solvent exposure as a driving factor to autoimmune diseases.
Your eating habits are also suspected risk factor for developing an autoimmune disease. Eating dairy, meat, high-sugar, high-fat, and processed foods has been linked to inflammation, the same might set off an immune response, causing symptoms.
What are some causes for autoimmune diseases?
The blood cells in the immune system of our body help protect against harmful substances. These include bacteria, toxins, viruses, cancer cells, and blood and tissue from outside the body. All these substances have antigens. The immune system gives antibodies against the antigens. These help destroy these harmful substances.
Our immune system fail to distinguish between healthy tissue and harmful antigens during an autoimmune disorder. As a result, our body sets off a reaction that destroys the normal tissues.
One theory is that some microorganisms (like bacteria or viruses) or drugs may trigger changes that confuse the immune system. It can happen more often in people who have genes that make them more prone to autoimmune diseases.
An autoimmune disorder may result in the following:
- Body tissue destruction
- Abnormal growth of any organ
- Changes in the functions of organ
Autoimmune disorders may affect one or more than one organs or tissues. Areas that often get affected by autoimmune disorders are:
- Blood vessels
- Connective tissues
- Endocrine glands like the thyroid or pancreas
- Red blood cells
Common types of autoimmune diseases:
There are around 80 different autoimmune diseases. Here are the 14 most common ones.
- Type 1 diabetes: The pancreas are responsible to produces insulin. It helps regulate blood sugar levels. The immune system attacks and also destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas in type 1 diabetes mellitus. Untreated elevated blood sugar levels in the body damages organs like eyes, heart, kidneys, and nerves. I have a detailed article on Type 1 Diabetes management. Here is a link for the same:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): The immune system attacks the joints in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This attack causes warmth, soreness, redness, and stiffness in the joints. Untreated, it can lead to difficulty with activities of daily living. If you are interested, here are detailed guidelines for RA management.
- Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis: Skin cells usually grow and shed when not required. Psoriasis leads to rapid multiplication of the skin cells. Also, additional cells develop, causing inflammation and red patches. Eventually, silver-white scales of plaque appear on the skin. About 30% of people with psoriasis develop stiffness, swelling, and pain in their joints. It is called psoriatic arthritis. In terms of nutritional and lifestyle changes, I often suggest an anti- inflammatory approach, coupled with sustainable lifestyle changes.
- Multiple sclerosis: Multiple sclerosis or MS damages the myelin sheath (i.e., the protective coating surrounding the nerve cells) in the central nervous system. Damage to the myelin sheath can slow the transmission speed of messages between brain and the spinal cord from the rest of our body. The damage can lead to weakness, balance issues, numbness, and trouble walking.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): Doctors in the 1800s first described lupus as a skin disease. This is because of a distinct rash it produces on the skin. We know know, that lupus affects many organs, such as the joints, brain, kidneys, and heart. The most common symptoms include joint pain, rashes and fatigue.
- Inflammatory bowel disease: Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is a term that describes the conditions that leads to severe inflammation in the intestinal wall lining. Each type of IBD normally affects a different part of the GI tract. Here is a detailed article for IBD management:
- Addison's disease: Addison's disease causes drastic affects on the adrenal glands and kidneys. It produces cortisol, aldosterone and androgen hormones. This coupled with fluctuating cortisol levels may affect how our body uses and stores carbohydrates and sugar. The aldosterone deficiency may lead to sodium loss and elevated potassium levels in the body. Symptoms may include fatigue, low blood pressure, weakness, weight loss, and a low blood sugar count.
- Graves' disease: Graves' disease affects the thyroid gland. This causes an elevated production of TSH hormone, leading to symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Thyroid hormones control the body's energy usage (i.e., metabolism). Too many hormones can rev up the body and cause heat intolerance, nervousness, fast heartbeat, and weight loss. Here is a detailed blog on the same.
Indian Diet Plan For Hyperthyroidism + Weight Gain Tips.
- Sjögren's syndrome: This condition attacks glands that lubricate the eyes and mouth. The hallmark symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome include dry eyes and dry mouth. However, it can also affect our joints or skin.
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis: Thyroid hormone production slows down in Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This causes symptoms of hypothyroidism, that may include hair loss, fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, and thyroid swelling (or goitre). Here is a detailed article I wrote on the same:
Indian Vegetarian Diet Plan for Hypothyroidism (+Weight Loss Tips)
- Myasthenia gravis: Myasthenia gravis affects nerve impulses that control the muscles. Signals cannot direct the muscles when the communication from nerves to muscles impairs. The most common symptom includes muscle weakness. It worsens with activity and improves with rest. Muscles that control the eye movements, swallowing, and facial movements are involved.
- Autoimmune vasculitis: Autoimmune vasculitis occurs when our immune system attacks our blood vessels. The inflammation that results due to the disorder narrows arteries and veins and restricts blood flow.
- Pernicious anaemia: This condition causes deficiency of a protein made by stomach lining cells called intrinsic factor. It is essential for the small intestine to absorb vitamin B-12 from the food. Without this vitamin, we may develop anaemia, and the ability for proper DNA synthesis alters.
- Celiac disease: People with celiac disease cannot eat foods that contain gluten. Gluten attacks the small intestine, causing the immune system to flare up, and even lead to symptoms like brain fog that affect one's ability to function.
Autoimmune Disease Symptoms
The early occurring symptoms of autoimmune diseases are quite similar. These include:
- Achy muscles
- Swelling and redness
- Low-grade fever
- Trouble concentrating
- Numbness and a tingling sensation occuring in hands and feet
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes
- Elevates blood markers for inflammation
Additionally, individual diseases will have their unique symptoms.
Risk Factors for Autoimmune Disorders
The exact causes of autoimmune diseases are not known. However, the risk factors seem to include the following:
- Genetics: A predisposition to autoimmune disorders is likely to run in families. Certain disorders may affect family members. Like one person may have diabetes, while another may have rheumatoid arthritis. Genetic susceptibility alone cannot trigger an autoimmune reaction since other factors also contribute.
- Environmental factors: A family's susceptibility to autoimmune diseases may be due to environmental factors and genetic factors.
- Nutritional habits: Dairy and meat are highly inflammatory and also cause the immune system to backfire through the process of molecular mimicry. Just omiting the same from your diet is enough to show a huge difference in symptom outcome.
- Lifestyle factors: A bad circadian cycle, smoking, unmanaged trauma or stress are all factors that can trigger an autoimmune disease.
- Gender: Around three-quarters of people with autoimmune diseases are women.
- Gut health: Our gut comprises of millions of strains of microbiomes. Some of these reduce inflammation while others are highly inflammatory. Bad gut health or gut dysbiosis can also be a trigger factor in auto immune disease management.
- Sex hormones: Autoimmune disorders tend to strike, especially during the childbearing years. Some diseases seem to be affected by major hormonal changes like pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.
- Infection: Certain infections may trigger or worsen autoimmune diseases.
Can autoimmune diseases be cured?
All of us have heard miracle stories of people going towards remission or even disease reversal with autoimmune conditions. Lifestyle, nutritional and environmental factors play such a big role in the disease prognosis, so it is but obvious that making changes to the same can have a huge impact in your symptoms.
There is however no one- answer- fit's- all when it comes to a cure. It will depend on how long have you had a condition for, what are your underlying symptoms and what kind of an attitude you portray while looking at your disease.
Some autoimmune diseases such as IBD, arthritis etc are easily reversible, while others like Type 1 diabetes, lupus and hashimoto's are manageable to a point of minimal to no symptoms present.
Drugs can control the overactive immune response, reduce inflammation and pain too. Drugs used to treat these conditions are:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Naprosyn)
- Immune-suppressing drugs
- Treatments are also available to relieve symptoms like pain, fatigue, swelling, and skin rashes.
Drugs do come with side effects, thus, it is highly suggested to make sustainable nutritional and lifestyle changes to first manage your condition.
Fasting for autoimmune disease:
Autoimmunity indicators have risen exponentially since 1988, especially among young individuals and women.
An increasing amount of data validates the hypothesis that fasting and fasting-like diets aid in activating stem cells and can be important in the healing of autoimmune diseases.
But most studies done on fasting and its effects on symptom management are anecdotal studies. Meaning, they are a one person study with one subject and his or her individual experience.
Anecdotal studies, as important as they are, can only help researchers with a hypothesis for future large scale studies. One single study for instance talks about a ladies experience with fibromyalgia. she managed to get off all her drugs and symptom free after a 24 day long fasting mimicking diet. The symptoms stayed away for atleast a month after she resumed eating normally. But the same effect was not seen when the study was replicated for a larger population.
A 2016 medical experiment published in BMC cancer found that 72 hours of fasting is related to lower DNA damage. So there are some benefits.
Fasting followed by a plant-based diet is thought to be the most effective treatment for illness prevention.
In another example of lupus management, a 45-year-old lady was in agony despite being on immunosuppressive medicines. Still, she was pain-free by day four of fasting and stayed symptom-free for a year before eradicating the disease itself with a second fast. Note here, it was the fasting followed by a plant- based diet that made the difference.
Regarding data demonstrating the significant influence of fasting on chronic illness, researchers devised the fasting-mimicking diet, a periodic, short-term nutritional intervention.
This diet is plant-based, strong in polyunsaturated fatty acids and low in protein and processed catrbs. Such a diet has been proven to reduce fasting glucose levels, increase ketone bodies, decrease IGF-1, and enhance IGFBP-1.
In addition, though fasting-like diets can help with chronic illness management, they also enhance motor coordination and memory, stimulate adult neurogenesis, and increase the expression of genes in pancreatic islets that are associated with embryonic and foetal development.
According to a 2016 study published in Cell Reports, a fasting-like diet decreased immune cell infiltration in autoimmune disease patients. Fasting followed by a plant-based diet now mostly shows promising results, and larger clinical trials may be beneficial for further assurance around this idea.
Needless to say, only fast under medical supervision.
The best diet for autoimmune disease management:
Our immunological system distinguishes between "self" cells and "non-self" pathogens such as viruses and bacteria.
Immune cells can tell the difference owing to a human leukocyte antigen protein found on the exterior of every "self" cell. In autoimmune illnesses, however, rather than leaving "self" cells undisturbed, the body produces autoantibodies that identify native cells as invaders.
Genetics, environmental antigens, poor gut health, and other factors have been identified as potential drivers of autoimmune disorders.
However, another idea called "molecular mimicry" could clarify why certain foods seem to provoke or aggravate autoimmune illnesses.
People with type 1 diabetes, for example, have higher amounts of immune cells sensitive to a specific protein in cow's milk. The protein from Cow's Milk mimic's the beta cells in the pancreas. Cow's milk being toxic and a foreign protein to the body, triggers the immune cells in the body to attack the same, killing the pancreatic beta cells in the crossfire.
Just dropping milk from your diet will go a long way to prevent a flare.
In addition, food risk factors may be associated with the impact of foods on gut health, such as how inflammatory foods like eggs, meat and dairy may promote intestinal permeability. This causes minute holes in the gut lining, leaching toxins out, causing a flare- up.
Interestingly, while certain foods may negatively influence autoimmune disease prevalence and symptoms, establishing healthier eating practices may help to avoid or regulate autoimmunity.
According to research, phytonutrients included in whole plant diets could serve as antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, potentially reducing autoimmune symptoms.
Plants are inherently anti-inflammatory and abundant in fibre, without any additives in highly processed diets. Although alterations may be required to exclude known allergies or trigger foods, the diet is adaptable and diverse enough to provide alternatives for most individuals.
Inflammatory indicators such as C-reactive protein (CRP) are lower in vegetarian and vegan diets, while diets heavy in animal products and saturated fat increase inflammation.
Because inflammation is a common feature of autoimmune illnesses, eliminating all foods that might cause an inflammatory reaction is critical. Extracted oils, most of which are heavy in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats, are removed when you follow a whole-food, plant-based diet.
But aren't eggs for breakfast healthy? You will be surprised...
An inflammation causing diet disrupts the balance of bacteria in the stomach. It promotes the formation of harmful metabolites, enabling the strong junctions between cells in the gut to break down.
As a result, the immune system perceives food that has slipped through the leaky holes as intruders and initiates an attack. Following a whole- food plant- based diet improves gut integrity by closing these leaky gut junctions and boosting the synthesis of metabolites that thicken and tighten the gut lining, preventing substances from invading the circulation.
Particular plant products that contain nutrients and antioxidants to protect the immune system and ensure healthy immunological responses should be added to your diet. These include.
- Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, kale and broccoli.
- Brightly coloured vegetables and fruits are high in carotenoids and flavonoids.
- Leafy greens like rocket leaves, bok choy and spinach that improve folic acid supply int he body.
- Vitamin C and zinc rice foods such as fruits and whole grains. These boost immune function and promote immune health.
- Mushrooms, ginger, garlic, onions etc. These belong to aromatic family that are high in a particular compound called allicin.
Evidence proves that a healthy plant-based diet can positively impact certain autoimmune diseases. Often, individuals report a significant reduction or total reversal of autoimmune disease symptoms when they cut out meat and dairy.
Generally, red and processed meat consumption links to chronic health conditions. These include cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. As a result, consumers switch to plant-based alternatives as a healthier option.
Unravelling the pathology of autoimmunity is an ongoing challenge. Research suggests diet play a role in the immune system's strength and development. Therefore, a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet can benefit key areas associated with autoimmunity.
Eliminating the Biggest Offenders
Standard dietary recommendations for autoimmunity focuses on removing foods with the potential to cause symptoms. These include:
- Processed foods (anything coming in packets)
- Sugars and artificial sweeteners (including soda's, jaggery, honey, palm sugar, coconut sugar etc)
- Dairy products (particularly Ghee/ clarified butter)
- Refined carbs such as bread flour (maida)
- Vegetable oils.
Role of potassium in autoimmune disease:
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints.
One compound that helps control inflmmation is glucocorticoid. It is a steroid hormone released by the adrenal glands. As expected, people with highly inflammatory conditions like RA also present with abnormally low levels of glucocorticoid. As a result, its low concentrations may promote inflammation.
Glucocorticoids also aids in flushing out extra potassium from the kidney's. As a result, when we consume a lot of potassium, our adrenal glands make more glucocorticoids, preventing us from building up too much potassium in the bloodstream.
So if you think about it, perhaps giving additional potassium to those with rheumatoid arthritis will help enhance their natural steroid levels and reduce inflammation.
The Journal of Pain published a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of potassium supplementation in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
Their potassium consumption was raised to 6,500 mg daily, and higher potassium content was indeed linked to a reduction in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Furthermore, if potassium-rich meals increase the body's natural anti-inflammatory hormones, this might also help with other inflammatory illnesses.
Vegetarian diets, naturally high in potassium, for example, have been demonstrated in trials to relieve psoriasis and other auto immune symptoms.
Incase you are wondering, beetroots, leafy greens, banana's and pulses stand high in the list of top potassium rich foods.
Sodium and autoimmune disease:
The Western diet, which is heavy in saturated fat and salt, has long been suspected of contributing to the rise in autoimmune illnesses in developed nations.
Over-activation of immune cells known as helper 17 cells (th- 17 cells) may be to blame for the rapidly rising frequency of autoimmune illnesses.
Th17-driven inflammation has been linked to the development of psoriasis, asthma, multiple sclerosis, type I diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
High salt content in our bloodstream may be one cause for stimulating those Th17 cells. This point should be enough for you to reduce salt intake in your diet. But honestly speaking, it is not just the table salt we sprinkle on our meals that is to be blamed. it is the over consumption of junk and processed foods.
A slice of pizza had from a fast food restaurant could have ten times the sodium content of the same pizza made at home.
In a large body of clinical trials, people who ate a high-salt diet had a much larger number of monocytes, immune cells commonly seen in chronic inflammation and autoimmune illnesses.
Furthermore, in one study, individuals with multiple sclerosis who consumed more salt were more likely to acquire new MS lesions in their brains.
They had an average of eight more brain lesions, compared to the low-salt group. So it is important to examine if people with autoimmune diseases may be helped by reducing their salt intake. Here, once again, I do not mean to go on a salt- free diet as this could lead to iodine deficiency, but rather, to ensure you completely cut off from processed foods.
What is the AIP Diet?
The AIP diet or the auto immune protocol is an elimination protocol targeted to eliminate food groups that may cause inflammation in the body, particularly the gut.
In susceptible individuals struggling with an autoimmune disease, the damage to the gut barrier leads to increased intestinal permeability. This leads to a "leaky gut," leaking endotoxins outside the gut lining and causing low- grade chronic inflammation. This can further trigger the development of certain autoimmune diseases.
The AIP diet eliminates these foods and replaces them with health-promoting, nutrient-dense foods. These help heal the gut and reduce inflammation and symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
Does the AIP diet work for autoimmune diseases?
The AIP protocol is divided into two stages, namely:
- The elimination stage
- The re- introduction stage
The protocol itself resembles a paleo type diet, that is, high in fats, certain vegetables and fruits.
The first stage starts with eliminating most food groups including night- shade vegetables, whole grains, legumes, dairy etc. It is suggested to follow the elimination stage for atleast 90 days.
The reintroduction phase slowly introduces foods back depending on inflammatory symptoms one is experiencing.
But does this diet work?
If the biggest motto from the diet is inflammation management in the gut, then the protocol is exactly the opposite of what is required for good gut health.
Gut health is dependent on plant- diversity. That is, the total number of plants in your diet. The principle of plant diversity for predicting gut health has been used for centuries.
Some of the healthiest indigenous species on the planet who live disease free are also the species who introduce the most number of plants to their diet. Food sensitivities are not a sign of intolerance, but, rather, a weak gut. Read this article to understand more:
AIP diet is hard to follow and very restrictive. A restrictive meal plan might further reduce diversity and build up to nutritional deficiencies. Whole grains and legumes are anti- inflammatory food for the good gut microbiome. By reducing the consumption of the same, one might be starving and wiping away the colonies of good gut micro bacteria.
In a recent 11-week study among 15 people with IBD on an AIP diet, the participants gave reports that they experienced fewer IBD-related symptoms towards the end. But there are no observations of significant changes in markers of inflammation. This brings in the question, that the betterment of symptoms might just be due to not triggering the gut with any foods, rather than fixing the gut.
I do not suggest the AIP protocol for auto- immune disease management. I instead suggest clients to work with an experienced nutritionist to introduce anti- inflammatory foods and bring in sustainable lifestyle changes that prevent over activation of the immune system.
Foods to eat as part of the AIP protocol:
The AIP diet however, has strict recommendations when it comes to foods to eat. These include:
- Vegetables: Varied vegetables except for the nightshade vegetables and algae
- Fresh fruit: Varied fresh fruits, although in moderation
- Tubers: Sweet potatoes, yams, taro, as well as Jerusalem or Chinese artichokes
- Fermented, probiotic-rich foods: nondairy-based fermented food like kimchi, kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, and coconut kefir
- Probiotic supplements are also effective.
- Minimally processed vegetable oils: Olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil
- Herbs and spices: As long as they are not derived from a seed
- Vinegar: Balsamic, apple cider, and red wine vinegar, as long as they are free of added sugars
- Natural sweeteners: Honey and maple syrup, in moderation
- Certain teas: Black tea and green at average intakes of up to 3–4 cups per day
Foods to avoid as part of the AIP protocol:
The AIP diet has strict recommendations regarding which foods to avoid. These include:
- Grains: Rice, oats, wheat, barley, rye and well and foods derived from them like pasta, bread, and breakfast cereals
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, peas, peanuts and foods derived from them like tofu, tempeh, mock meats, or peanut butter
- Nightshade vegetables: Peppers, eggplants, potatoes, tomatillos, tomatoes, and spices derived from nightshade vegetables like paprika
- Eggs: Egg whites, whole eggs, or foods containing these ingredients
- Dairy: Cow's, goat's, or sheep's milk and foods derived from these milk like cream, cheese, butter, or ghee
- Nuts and seeds: All nuts and seeds, and foods derived from them like flours, butter, or oils. These include cocoa and seed-based spices like coriander, anise, cumin, fennel, mustard, fenugreek, and nutmeg.
- Certain beverages: Alcohol and coffee
- Processed vegetable oils: Corn, canola, rapeseed, palm kernel, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, or sunflower oils
- Refined or processed sugars: Corn syrup, brown rice syrup, cane or beet sugar, and barley malt syrup. It also includes soda, sweets, candy, frozen desserts, and chocolate, containing these ingredients.
- Food additives and artificial sweeteners: Food colouring, emulsifiers, trans fats, thickeners, and artificial sweeteners like stevia, mannitol, and xylitol
Is following a whole- food plant- based diet enough?.
The extent of the elimination protocol depends on the severity of autoimmune condition. At the same time, some people may find relief by following a WFPB diet with no further modifications.
Others may need to remove more foods to see an improvement in their symptoms. A study showed that people with rheumatoid arthritis experienced more relief following a gluten-free plant-based diet than those in a non-plant-based control group.
Inflammation is a major characteristic of autoimmune diseases. Vegan and vegetarian diets associates with lower levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP).
However, diets high in animal products and saturated fat promote inflammation. Do not hesitate to use bold anti-inflammatory spices like garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper with your meal preps.
Supporting Immune Health
Certain plant foods contain nutrients and antioxidants that modulates the immune system. They also support healthy immune responses:
- Carotenoids and flavonoids: Brightly-colored vegetables and fruits, especially berries
- B Vitamins: Nuts, grains, seeds, leafy greens, root vegetables, and nutritional yeast
- Vitamin C: Papayas, bell peppers, oranges, broccoli, tomatoes
- General immune support: Mushrooms, garlic, leafy greens, ginger, and onions
Supplementing high-quality plant-based vitamin D also provide support if low vitamin D levels are detected.
7 Lifestyle tips for autoimmune disease.
Trying out the following lifestyle changes can help you feel better and live an active life:
- Eat a healthy diet: Good nutrition can help improve the functioning of your immune system. It will ease symptoms of autoimmune disorders. Eating a balanced, low-fat diet, including fruits, whole grains, vegetables, calcium-rich foods, creates a huge difference.
- Get regular exercise: To keep your body in the best shape, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity. Talk with your doctor to see which exercise program will be safe for you.
- Manage your stress: Find stress-reducing activities that you enjoy. Work with a counsellor if necessary to work through stress.
- Get plenty of sleep: Our stress levels can increase and trigger symptoms when there is less sleep. Therefore, aim to sleep for at least seven hours each night. This activates the brain's glycation system, helping the brain remove toxins.
- Manage your time: A common symptom of autoimmune disorders is fatigue. Therefore, people tend to cram too much work into short periods when they feel well. It leaves us feeling more fatigued and stressed afterwards. It results in a dangerous cycle of over activity alternating with extreme fatigue. Pace yourself, evenly spreading out the activities to accomplished without draining yourself.
- Fix the gut: Almost 60 to 70 per cent of our immune system lies right under the one-cell-layer-thick lining of our gut. If this surface breaks down, our immune system will activate. It will simultaneously start reacting to toxins, foods, and bugs in our gut. The easiest way to heal our gut involves eating whole foods, an anti-inflammatory diet and removing dairy and other inflammatory foods from diet.
- Implement supplements: Nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, and probiotics calms the immune response naturally.
Even if medication is necessary, nutrition changes and lifestyle modification still is the cornerstone to auto- immune disease management. Consider taking steps from the above blog and make changes to your meal plan and lifestyle that are small but sustainable.
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